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The Crown Review: Appropriate Finale

Last updated on: December 19, 2023 13:40 IST
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After the debacle of the first episodes of Season 6, the latter half give an even-handed treatment to intriguing not-so-well-known events of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, observes Vaihayasi Pande Daniel.

The Crown does not end with Queen Elizabeth II's death.

That's still years off.

But yet, it wraps up this extended era of Britain's longest-reigning monarch and presents her legacy.

If we ignore the royal bashers, her greatest achievement was something she herself confessed to, but not in The Crown: 'Waging of peace is the hardest form of leadership of all.'

In The Crown something similar is said: 'To do nothing is the hardest job of all.'


Whichever quote you favour, the last bunch of episodes of Season 6, showcase this aspect of Queen Elizabeth's statesmanship as a figurehead leader.

She invested all her energy in making sure she did not so much as advance even a millimetre of her royal toe wrongly forward and Cross A Line, so inbred was Windsor diplomacy or rather tact and discretion in her, sometimes even with her own family.

Thus, Elizabeth II's legacy is then, admirably, what she did not say and The Crown redeems itself in the final episodes of Season 6, elegantly summing this up -- painting the Elizabeth who sturdily endeavours to steer her passage through life always sailing on serene waters, never, good lord, God forbid, stirring up a tempest.

There is even a scene at the wedding reception of then Prince Charles with Camilla Parker Bowles, where the queen has written out something dramatic that she plans to say but changes her mind, crosses it out and chooses to proceed status quo.

Further, given that we come from a no-filter culture where we say everything that pops into our minds, the instant it does so, and have never heard of 'holding one's counsel', it's a total treat to watch the sparse communication that exists between the royals and Britishers as a whole, as a culture.

Why a treat?

You might revile unspoken communication for being emotionless, wooden, barren and lacking empathy. But there is also a beauty and sophistication in leaving things unsaid. And communicating softly, imperceptibly, wordlessly, via a wry laugh, a gentle smile, a thoughtful glance, a flick of the eyebrow, the humorous twitch of the face, or a moment of musing that does not crack into a grin.

You have to admire the subtlety of that. And its grace.

The Crown is rife with those scenes, especially in its last episodes.

In fact, each of its actors, be it consummate Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce or the magnificent Imelda Staunton or Dominic West, superbly pull off such refined moments at critical junctures.

After the debacle of the first episodes of Season 6, the latter half masterfully and swiftly accelerates us through various crucial bits of the tail end of Queen Elizabeth's reign, from the death of Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother, the advent of Tony Blair, the marriage of Charles and Camilla, Prince William and Prince Harry reaching adulthood, the queen playing that special, wise and droll granny to Charles' sons, the arrival of Kate Middleton and Elizabeth looking ahead to Britain's future without her.

The pace is fairly snappy, although, yet, at points,it still drags.

But unlike the Di-monomania of episodes 1-4 of Season 6, the next ones give an even-handed treatment to intriguing not-so-well-known events of her reign.

As is customary for The Crown, the acting is top-drawer, with even newcomers putting in exceptional performances.

Ed McVey as Prince William does super well.

From certain angles he looks exactly like the younger Prince William.

It would seem his mien is also quite like what the prince is all about in real life. Shy, temperate, cautious, earnest, always trying to do the right thing.

Harry penned Spare but William has never lent even the tiniest bit of salacious material to even the possible ghost penning of a future The Heir, but even so, from what we know of him from his public appearances, McVey pretty much nails William.

It would seem that playwright and creator Peter Morgan, like much of Britain, dislikes Prince Harry.

The portrayal, by Luther Ford, of the young obnoxious, bratty teenage Harry might be true to form.

But there is nothing about it that will endear you to Prince Harry, his character seems unreformable in these episodes, with him sporting Nazi uniforms and getting up to ugly antics. And is it necessary to have Ford sport the most hideous of bangs in Episode 5?

Harry in real life was actually quite a handsome youth, if not lovable too.

On the other hand, Morgan and crew are exceptionally kind to Camilla.

Diana might be played by Elizabeth Debicki as a conflicted person, given to flightiness and unendurable emotional ups and downs but Camilla is always depicted as supportive, calm, eminently sensible and as lovely as driven snow.

Surely, she had a not-so-savoury role as the other woman in the public tragedy that was Charles and Di's marriage?

Meg Bellamy makes for a captivating, perky teenage Kate M, full of charm and vivacity.

Although you would imagine that in real life Kate was probably demurer, than she was essayed in The Crown.

She comes across as a bit too fluffy, air-headed and Debicki-ish.

It is way, way, way too far-fetched to believe that Kate and Carole Middleton had designs on William before he reached St Andrews to complete his undergraduate studies in art history and geography.

If I were Carole, I would object.

Plus, the tempo of that romance is very fast forward, mythically whirlwind.

Morgan uses various devices to move the plot further ahead than it plans to go, with The Crown ending at 2005, and not in 2022 at her death.

The conversations between the present-day queen and her earlier selves (unlike those dreadful Diana ghost scenes in part I of Season 6) unfold splendidly.

It works as both a flashback and a flash-forward, as Elizabeth examines her life, the younger Elizabeths working as her conscience at points.

The funeral planning that the queen necessarily embarks on, also serves cleverly as an opportunity for the serial to look ahead, beyond its scope, at what will be her heritage for future kings.

The funeral blueprinting scene results in one of the sweetest moments of this season of The Crown, when Elizabeth asks the bagpiper -- the official Piper to the Sovereign -- who woke her up each morning by playing tunes under her window, to suggest a song for her funeral.

This burly, straightforward Scotsman chooses Sleep, Dearie Sleep, which he debuts for Queen Elizabeth and a maid in the palace hearing the bagpiper's song, sings it -- Sodger (Soldier), lie doon on yer wee pickle straw/It's no very broad and it's no very braw/But, Sodger, it's better than naething at all -- as she dusts one of the palace rooms.

This lament was the way the queen’s funeral ended in 2022.

Like all episodes and seasons of The Crown, there are some memorable dialogues.

Queen Elizabeth, while discussing her golden jubilee preparations, tells Prince William that she fears one day she might go onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace and 'the idea I might step out to no crowds'.

That surely must be a real royal worry. How scary.

In a conversation between Camilla and Charles, he says that Windsors 'don't do fathers and sons very well'.

Princess Margaret muses, 'Tears and self-pity are not common currency in this family'.

Elizabeth tells Blair that she has come to the realisation that 'there is no such thing as too royal'.

Indeed, with all her 'too royal' quirks, was there anyone as queenly as Queen Elizabeth II?

The Crown streams on Netflix.

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